New Year, New Sidebar

When I started this blog some 18 months ago, I designed the sidebar on the right to be a collection of my recommendations for current movies, music, television shows, and books. I hope that in the time I’ve been doing it (and I tried to regularly update it with new stuff I’d discovered), I’ve led some people to encounter truth and beauty.

But all of that is now gone. I totally re-did the sidebar today. In place of “The Best of Now” is “Fellow Searchers”–a collection of some quotes, thoughts, and glimpses of the people who have shaped me spiritually, artistically, intellectually.

The reason I got rid of the media recommendations is basically because I’m sick of defining myself chiefly through consumerist language. It’s an easy trap to fall into these days. On facebook and any social networking site with a profile page, how do we define ourselves? We identify ourselves chiefly as consumers, through a listing of our favorite movies, bands, books, etc. But isn’t there more to us than that?

So I got rid of my facebook “media interests” stuff on the info tab too. It doesn’t change anything about who I am. Perhaps now it looks like I’m totally uninterested in movies and music or perhaps just too ashamed in my tastes to want to broadcast it. I welcome that. If people feel like they don’t know me as well now that I have no media favorites to flesh out my identity, then they never knew me in the first place. I’d rather know people–and be known–in ways that go deeper than media tastes. I refuse to be reduced (and I challenge others to refuse this as well) to the products I consume, the brands and bands I collect.

Additionally, I’m sort of tired of the whole charade of keeping up with the insanely fast-moving train of culture. It’s exhausting. There are more important things to do and say than to seek out the hot new bands and trumpet them to the blogosphere. There are more lasting things to consider, to probe, to discuss. I’ll continue to talk about media in all forms, and my posts will reflect this as they always have. But as part of a larger goal of mine in 2009 to become slightly less mediated, I’m going to stop offering a rotating list of pop culture flavor-of-the-week recommendations. I’d much rather promote things and ideas with more enduring shelf life.

9 responses to “New Year, New Sidebar

  1. I like your new sidebar, but it’s really unclear to me how it avoids the problem of a consumerist, “mediated” identity. It seems to me that you’re still engaged in a kind of consumerist self-fashioning – perhaps even more so – when you list out all the cherry-picked thinkers and artists who have shaped you.

  2. Indeed, you are right that it is still a sort of consumerist self-fashioning. I was aware of this when I wrote it last night. But I guess I was hoping the quotes would be a sort of immediate offering to the world–glimpses and fragments of truth and beauty that beckon one not into consumerism but to just experience something. You may not believe it, but I did not put tons of thought into who I included and who I didn’t, or what it says or doesn’t say about me. Just put up the things that came to mind that have been meaningful to me and that have some sort of logic that warrants me sharing it with the world. I suppose I could have listed things like “Christmas 1995” or “My parents” or “The City of Paris” as well… b/c all have been meaningful to me. But I’d rather list things that have a present, public, accessible value and not just a private value to me. That would be narcissistic:)… Plus, in the last sidebar, all the products were linked to Amazon… so at least this way I’m not so directly complicit in the act of consumerism!
    But yeah, your point is well taken. The problem has not been entirely circumvented with this new format… And clearly my identity is still inextricably bound up within a mediated sphere of consumerism. But is anyone free of this?

  3. The last time I listed all my likes and dislikes was when I started my MySpace profile eons ago. In fact, when everyone else was wearing Guess Jeans, in the early 90’s, I was one of the few, the proud (the drama geeks), who wouldn’t wear a “brand”. Now I’m more indifferent. Less passionate about being “not brand conscious”. So I get what you’re saying.

    However, I think the reason to take down your “media interests” is not because you’re “sick of defining [yourself] chiefly through consumerist language”. We do, after all, live in a market economy where the chief societal conversation is happening in current movies, music, television shows, and books. I would hope that you had been listing those “media interests” not because they defined you, but because you hoped they’d help define us, your readers! Your fear of appearing narcissistic may just rob us of important cultural conversations.

    And your question regarding the freedom of our identities from being inextricably bound up within a mediated sphere of consumerism… is flawed. Your identity, Brett, seems to be inextricably bound up within a sphere of contemporary and modern culture or “media interests”. Yet you, as do we all, exist within a sphere of consumerism as well (a market economy, you see) that you seem to mediate yourself just fine. ;)

    List the movies. List the quotes too! Lead us towards truth and beauty. This preoccupation you have to define yourself accurately is in and of itself a form of narcissism and feels like an identity crisis! ;)

  4. Isn’t it giving in to the consumerist mindset to assume that if I like a book, I am therefore encouraging you to purchase it, and simultaneously noting that I have purchased it? A list of favorite media items, while a shallow picture of identity, is not a capitulation to capitalism unless you already and only think within that paradigm. Many of my e.g. favorite films I do not own. ‘Consumerism,’ I believe, refers to the relentless consumption of products, not casting as pejorative the devouring of literature, philosophy, and art. Only when you allow that literature, philosophy, and art are first and foremost commercial products does your heralding of these things become shallow.

  5. I like what gilliebean and Tim Coe say. What if, Brett, you saw your sidebar as an act of participating in a gift economy, where you pass bits of beauty and wisdom around to other people, and not an act of self-definition? What if the sidebar were just a part of the creative commons?

    I guess the problem with all these interfaces (sidebars, blogs, profiles) is that they’re monologic: we get your gifts, your piece of the creative commons, but we don’t get to tell you what’s shaped us (at least in such a prominent form as the profile or the sidebar).

  6. affirm, affirm, agree. :)

  7. Why is it that your quote under Jesus’ name is a quote of the Apostle John, not Jesus?

  8. Tim – that quote is in fact a quote of Jesus, not the Apostle John. It’s the part where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus.

  9. You misunderstood my quibble. The Gospels aren’t a court transcript, is my quibble— they’re written by people, including the parts that appear in quotation marks.

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